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Changes in diagnosis rates and behavioural traits of autism spectrum disorder over time

  • Ginny Russell (a1), Stephan Collishaw (a2), Jean Golding (a3), Susan E. Kelly (a4) and Tamsin Ford (a1)...
Abstract
Background

The increased proportion of UK children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been attributed to improved identification, rather than true increase in incidence.

Aim

To explore whether the proportion of children with diagnosis of ASD and/or the proportion with associated behavioural traits had increased over a 10-year period.

Method

A cross-cohort comparison using regression to compare prevalence of diagnosis and behavioural traits over time. Participants were children aged 7 years assessed in 1998/1999 (n=8139) and 2007/2008 (n=13831).

Results

During 1998/1999, 1.09% (95% CI 0.86–1.37) of children were reported as having ASD diagnosis compared with 1.68% (95% CI 1.42–2.00) in 2007/2008: risk ratio (RR)=1.55 (95% CI 1.17–2.06), P=0.003. The proportion of children in the population with behavioural traits associated with ASD was also larger in the later cohort: RR=1.61 (95% CI 1.35–1.92), P<0.001. Increased odds of diagnosis at the later time point was partially accounted for by adjusting for the increased proportion of children with ASD-type traits.

Conclusions

Increased ASD diagnosis may partially reflect increase in rates of behaviour associated with ASD and/or greater parent/teacher recognition of associated behaviours.

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Copyright
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Non-Commercial, No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Corresponding author
Ginny Russell, Institute of Health Research, University of Exeter Medical School, South Cloisters, St Luke's Campus, Exeter EX1 2LU, UK. Email: g.russell@ex.ac.uk
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Changes in diagnosis rates and behavioural traits of autism spectrum disorder over time

  • Ginny Russell (a1), Stephan Collishaw (a2), Jean Golding (a3), Susan E. Kelly (a4) and Tamsin Ford (a1)...
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